Saturday, December 18, 2010

Knysna Elephants Will Be Seen Worldwide

I am delighted to inform you that the documentary, The Search for the Knysna Elephants, is currently screening in many countries world-wide on Animal Planet. For dates and times, please check your schedules.Wonderful time for it to be screened and unprecedented public awareness for these extraordinary elephants.Here in South Africa it is to be screened again as a part of a Animal Planet's Christmas Marathon' of favourite nature programmes between December 27 and January 2nd. The Search for the Knysna Elephants will be shown on January 2nd.Wishing you all a lovely Christmas and the very best for 2011.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Search for the Knysna Elephants documentary

I have just been informed that our documentary, The Search for the Knysna Elephants, will premiere in South Africa on Animal Planet (DSTV) this coming Wednesday, 10/11/2010 at 19:10.Wonderful that the documentary is being screened here at home in Africa! Enjoy it! The film has also been screened recently in France, as well as once again on Animal Planet UK.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Story of Knysna Elephants on 50/50

Watch 50/50 on Monday 28 June @ 9pm on SABC2 when startling new findings which suggest there is still a herd of wild elephants roaming the Knysna forests will be shown.
A story relating to these findings, titled "Chasing Phantoms" by Gareth Patterson, was published in the June 2010 issue of Africa Geographic.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Alan Paton Literary Award

The Secret Elephants has been long listed for The Sunday Times Alan Paton
Literary Award, Africa's premier literary award.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Forest Walks

Over the past ten weeks, I have done ten consecutive Secret Elephant Forest experiences. What a privilege it is to introduce local and international nature lovers into the Knysna elephants wild and magical world. Enjoy the array of photos here taken by people who have participated on the forest experience. During the walks, we are uncovering "new" elephant paths that I had not noticed in the past. The forest experience normally takes three hours, sometimes four, and on two consecutive weekends, stretched out somehow to five hours. Neither the participants, nor I, can work out where the time goes when in the forest...(Thanks to Rob Sedgwick and Cathy Reck for the use of your photos.)

In this coming months (June) edition of Africa Geographic, there is an extensive interview style article by Tim Jackson on our findings here on the Knysna elephants. Also there was a very nice story in Cape Unplugged, a publication distributed to all international and domestic arrivals at Cape Town International. Great that over this coming World Cup month, with the international visitors pouring into the country, that this little elephant population is receiving upbeat and positive exposure. Also, in June there will be a 10 minute insert on the elephants story on South Africa's favourite wildlife/environment TV programme, 50/50.

Tuli is doing well and accompanies me every time I check the remote cameras. I saw something large and swaggering pass my cabin the other day. When I went outside to have another look, I saw it was a huge male baboon with little Tuli trailing very happily behind him. The baboon totally ignored Tuli while she was fascinated by him. She had never seen a baboon so close up before. Despite popular thought, baboons are normally quite tolerant of dogs - unless, of course, when being attacked.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Help End the Export of Wild Elephants

Message from Gareth Patterson:

I and many others involved with the preservation of African wildlife, are encouraging people to signify their support for the campaign set up by The Born Free Foundation to help end the export of wild elephants and other animals. For details please go to

Read related article below:

Zimbabwe to give North Korea baby elephants
By ANGUS SHAW, Associated Press

May 13, 2010

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Two baby elephants intended as a gift to North Korea are unlikely to survive the journey by air, Zimbabwean conservationists said Thursday.

The independent Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force said the 18-month-old elephants were being held in pens in the western Hwange National Park, along with pairs of most of the park's other animal species bound for North Korea. The country is a longtime ally of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

Johnny Rodgrigues, head of the task force, said elephant experts do not think the young elephants will survive the trip separated from their mothers.

No comment was immediately available from Zimbabwe's state parks and wildlife department.

Rodrigues, whose task force is an alliance of conservation groups, said all the animals — including zebra, giraffe and a range of antelope — were captured at the president's order to be given to North Korea. He cited witnesses and officials in the park.

Witnesses reported seeing capture and spotting teams, government vehicles towing cages and armed men at key watering holes with radios to call in the capture teams. The animals were being kept in quarantine in holding pens at Umtshibi camp in the park.

Rodrigues said officials in the department opposed to the captures leaked details to conservationists. They even reported some areas of the 5,500 square mile (14,000 square kilometer) Hwange National Park, the biggest in Zimbabwe, being closed to tourists and photographic safari groups.

"We fear a pair of endangered rhino in Hwange will also be included," Rodrigues said.

He said conservation groups were trying to find out from civil aviation authorities when the airlift will begin and were lobbying for support from international animal welfare groups to stop it.

Zoo conditions in North Korea, isolated by most world nations, did not meet international standards, he said.

Two rhino, a male known as Zimbo and a female called Zimba, given to the North Korean leader in the 1980s by Mugabe died only a few months after their relocation.

At the same time, other rhino given to the Belgrade zoo in the former Yugoslavia died after contracting foot rot in damp and snowy winter conditions there.

"This new exercise has to be stopped. People under orders to do it are too scared to speak out," said Rodrigues.

Last month, the government said the North Korean soccer team was headed to a training camp in Zimbabwe ahead of the FIFA World Cup in neighboring South Africa June 11 - July 11.

Opposition groups vowed to demonstrate against their presence. Troops loyal to Mugabe trained by North Koreans crushed an armed rebellion in the western Matabeleland province — where Hwange is located — and massacred tens of thousands of civilians in the 1980s.

The team's visit to Zimbabwe was in doubt. North Korea soccer officials refused to confirm their itinerary when they left Pyongyang for training in Switzerland on May 8.

Monday, March 22, 2010


STE Field Diary entry by Lucy King - Huge Success at CITES

Lucy King at Doha, Qatar
March 22, 2010

"HUGE SUCCESS AT CITES!!! We are delighted to email you from the conference center in Doha to spread the news that both the Zambian and Tanzania elephant proposals to downlist their elephants from Appendix I to Appendix II and to sell their ivory have been DEFEATED at CITES CoP15 with important support from many countries from around the world. The tension in the room was incredible and there was some seriously upset delegates who were not allowed to talk etc etc but in the end the vote has gone our way and we are all elated. I was literally shaking from head to foot after the Tanzania vote, the high significance of the vote was not lost on anyone and I almost felt physically sick that we were about to see the opening of the ivory trade once and for all. The Kenya delegation has worked so hard and for many, many months to get this result and they should all be applauded for their efforts. The Kenya amended proposition to try to change the CoP14 wording of the agreement to stop any more proposals being submitted to down list was, however, rejected. This is a small disappointment as it means we could well be back here in 3 years with another down-listing proposal to battle but for now, it is a something that we are able to live with knowing that the ivory trade has not been opened again. We hope that the African Range States will follow the spirit of the agreement and remain with the 9 year proposed moratorium but I'm afraid that may be too much to hope for. Special credit must go to Iain, Joyce Poole and Sam Wasser who gave a very well attended presentation yesterday lunchtime to 350 delegates explaining the data problems behind the proposals, the consequence of poaching on elephant society and the DNA proof that Zambia and Tanzania were heavily implicated in multiple ivory seizures from around the world. This talk from such well respected scientists was an eye opener to many delegates who had not yet made up their mind on the vote. This should be seen as a major achievement by Save the Elephants to contribute science and years of data to the discussion within the largest international forum that there is for the trade and conservation of the African Elephant. Well done to all members of STE who have contributed to the data that Iain was able to present so clearly to the world. Best wishes from Qatar, Lucy"

Article at the following link:
Melissa Groo
Save the Elephants News Service Researcher
For further information on elephants please see Save the Elephants' web site
This Save the Elephants project is supported by the International Elephant Foundation.
Please note that we cannot guarantee the accuracy of any news story. In addition, we do not endorse any of the views expressed therein. We simply try to represent fairly what is in the media on elephants. If a reader finds inaccuracies in an article, we are happy to circulate corrections, if these can be verified.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A leopard in my footsteps


Last Saturday morning (13/3/2010), I set out with Tuli to check my three remote cameras just beyond the southern boundary of the Garden Route National Park. Not 300 meters from the third camera, I found tracks of a leopard heading northwards. After doing the usual data collecting, measurement of spoor, GPS coordinates, estimation of time of spoor (approximately 12 hours old), I continued also northwards for a while. I lost the tracks eventually when the leopard entered the edge of the forests. I returned the way I had come, and after an hour and a half, I was on the last section on the route to my cabin. Image my surprise when I suddenly saw fresh tracks of another leopard over my boot marks where Tuli and I had been walking three hours before! In fact though, this is about the fourth time in the last three years that I have had fresh leopard tracks superimposed over my tracks in that area. See the photos here of the fresh leopard tracks and of Tuli beside them. The leopard tracks in the photograph are just above her head in the background. Though Tuli is still young, she certainly is aware and alert whenever we come across fresh signs of these big cats. Usually I have her on her lead, but when not, she stays very close by. (Hope those of you who have watched the youtube interview on the home page enjoyed seeing Tuli's screen debut! Here is the link for those of you who have not watched the interview yet - )

Launch of The Secret Elephants Forest Experience


The public response to The Secret Elephants Forest Experience has been excellent. Rozanne Savory who is handling bookings and enquiries, has been inundated with calls. I hosted the first two forest experiences recently and was moved by the participants response to this introduction to the Knysna elephants extraordinary world. It is a very holistic experience, not restricted to the elephants though, but to everything around us, the birds, amphibians, invertebrates, the myriad of mushrooms (see the photograph of the The Red Stinkhorn mushroom), special endemic species such as the Knysna dwarf chameleon, and of course, the wonderful trees.

The forest experience is undertaken at a fairly leisurely pace through the central Knysna forests, and to maintain that it is a personal and unique experience. I will keep the numbers of participants to only eight at one time. Of the elephants themselves, we marvelled at our discovery of age old elephant pathways. But this experience is certainly not about seeking the physical presence of the elephants, but is far deeper, a spiritual connection to the Knysna elephants of the present day, and those of the past. Walking the pathways is almost a pilgrimage experience, spiritually celebrating the world's most southerly elephants.

For bookings and details about The Secret Elephants Forest Experience, please contact Rozanne at (South Africa code) Tel: 044 386 0100, Cell: 083 408 9114 or email

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Secret Elephants Forest Experience: An Invitation from Gareth

Due to popular demand, I will be hosting a unique forest experience four times a month. Come and join me on foot in the Knysna forests and learn about the wonderful world of the Knysna elephants

Numbers are very limited so booking is essential. For details about this unique experience and to make bookings, please contact Rozanne Savory Tel: 044 386 0100. Mobile: 083 408 9114 (South African code) or e-mail

The Secret Elephants Lectures and Johannesburg Documentary Screenings

In January I was in Johannesburg at the invitation of the Decorative Arts Society (Darts) to give two lectures on the Knysna elephants and my new book The Secret Elephants, as well as to screen The Search for the Knysna Elephants documentary. Both two-hour lectures were filled to capacity, and the response by the audiences was really heartening, reflecting once again how well-loved the Knysna elephants are here in South Africa. The event and my visit to Johannesburg was superbly organized by Beres Jobling and his Darts colleagues. Many thanks to one and all!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Secret Elephants--Christmas and New Year's

Photos above:

The "two boy's" in the fynbos at Gondwana Game Reserve. Photo by Karin Saks

Gareth looking out early one morning at the magnificent Gondwana Game Reserve

Over the Christmas period, this elephant battered trail sign was removed from the tree by a Knysna elephant.

The Secret Elephants Christmas Time, and into the New Year!

Firstly, all the very best to everyone for this exciting New Year!

My Christmas time and into the New Year was like a swirling whirlwind of activity and interactions ( please see website list below of some of the people/places mentioned).

On my return from The Secret Elephants Book Tour I visited, with baboon expert Karin Saks of the Darwin Primate Group, the magnificent Gondwana Game Reserve here in the southern Cape. Gondwana is the only Big Five fynbos reserve in the world, and is owned and run by the Mark and Wendy Rutherfoord. I visited the reserve to assist Mark with the setting up of remote cameras with the reserves knowledgeable field guides. It had been suspected that leopard are occurring in parts of the reserve but had not been sighted, and we hope to establish the status of these magnificent animals through the use of the cameras. Appropriately, as we had Karin with us at the time, the very first images captured on Gondwana, was a large troop of baboons. Gondwana is a really stunning reserve. I always enjoy seeing the “two boys” there, two fantastic elephant bulls who always move together.

At the end of November, Tim Jackson, Scientific Editor of Africa Geographic visited me for a photo shoot in the forests for the Knysna elephant article he is preparing. Weather was good, and I am sure Tim captured some great images.

In December Trevor and Caroline Carnaby of Beat About the Bush Safaris visited me, and we went on a route through the forests. Trevor is one of southern Africa's foremost professional field guides and is the best selling author of the book, Beat About the Bush : Mammals. Early into our foray into the forest. we amazingly came across fresh sign of one of the Knysna elephants, the female I had named Strangefoot, whose name will be familiar to readers of The Secret Elephants. What was doubly amazing about this find is that I had not had sign of elephant activity in that particular portion of the Knysna forests for almost three years. And as I write this some weeks later, we still have elephant activity in this area. A female and a 6 - 8 year old youngster. Very kindly Trevor and Caroline wanted to contribute to my work here and donated two new remote cameras for use in the Coastal Leopard - Mammal Diversity Project. Thanks again, Trevor and Caroline, and hope to see you both again soon!

Trevor and Caroline's visit was followed by me then returning back to Cape Town for The Cape Times The Secret Elephants literary lunch with Gorry Bowes Taylor. The literary lunch was hosted in the magnificent Allee Bleue Estate in the heart of the Franschoek winelands. It was a lovely event and attended to capacity. My return to Knysna, flying into George Airport was not so relaxed though. As we were about to board the plane, fellow passengers mobile phones rang and buzzed and soon we were seeing images that the flight before ours had over shot the runway, coming to a halt on a road outside the George Airport. Mercifully and miraculously, no one was seriously injured. Our flight, in terrible weather, was a nerve racking one to say the very least...

In the middle of December filmmaker Nicole Schafer visited to film a story for Reuters Television. Nicole's good fortune in the forests matched Trevor and Caroline's. It was suspected that a musth bull was in the area and Nicole filmed this evidence with SANParks personnel. The following day during filming with myself, I found extremely fresh sign of the female and the youngster. After following up for a while, and sensing the elephants were close, I turned to Nicole as she filmed and stated we were going to leave the elephants be. I have a firm policy of absolute non-disturbance of the elephants. And so we turned back. But almost as a reward, twenty minutes later when we had finished filming, I heard a rumbling communication call move through the forest. It was great to hear one of the elephants. The rest of Nicole's filming went equally well apart from right at the very end when she mysteriously lost the microphone for her camera. But....just this last weekend as I was driving through the forest, I was flagged down urgently by a lady who lives close to where we had lost the microphone. The lady had found the microphone, in the shrubbery along the side of the road the week before! My thanks to this lady was profuse. On reflection it was very fortunate that we had lost the microphone where we had, as if this had occurred in the area of elephant activity, the outcome might have been very different. Elephants being highly intelligent and curious, might have taken Nicole's microphone into an unknown dark depth of the forest!

After Nicole's filming for Reuters Television, I was visited by an old friend of the Knysna elephant project, Michael MacIver. Michael, through the Baobab Charity UK, and through his generous personal donations, has contributed much in terms of equipment to the elephant project. Michael is also a trustee of The Gareth Patterson Wildlife Foundation. Great seeing you, Michael!

Following Michael's visit to the elephant project, I was visited by another old friend and elephant supporter, Andreas Liebenberg and his lovely wife Melina. Andreas and Melina own and run the very successful Bateleur Eco Safaris in the Timbavati, which is a part of the Greater Kruger National Park. While walking one of the public trail routes in the forest this last weekend, we again came across fresh sign of the female elephant and the 6 - 8 year old youngster.

Some people/places mentioned :